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Can Autonomous Robots Rebuild the Future of the Construction sector?

by | Feb 24, 2022 | Industry, Technology

Rapid developments in robotics and artificial intelligence are leading a new age that could change the way things were being done. The applications of AI and robotics are virtually limitless.

And with the rising global population, there is an immense demand for housing and more sustainable building techniques.

For centuries the construction industry has worked with the same materials and processes. If you were a construction worker in the 19s and you looked at how people build today, it’s very similar.

Meanwhile, the world has made immense progress in terms of innovation and technology. And now the industry is by no means immune to these developments.

It’s an incredibly exciting time as numerous pioneers and research teams are developing robotic technology to take over dangerous and highly repetitive tasks. Hence, improving quality, productivity, efficiency, and labor shortage in the sector.

Here, we delve into the roles that robots are starting to play in construction and look at how they will affect the industry in the future.

Robotics in construction sector

The rise of technology is a huge opportunity for the construction industry to overcome many of its challenges. While automation has already entered construction in several ways, making it much further could be truly transformational.

Automation also fills the gaps where skilled labor cannot be found and freeing-up others to focus on more important work which improves efficiency while raising quality.

Technological advancement is at a point where it can be safely integrated into construction sites. The introduction of autonomous robot equipment could have a profound impact on the industry.

This opens up some new potential revenue streams. Basically what you’re doing is adding value to your customers by having more reliable equipment.

Hence, this improves the productivity and efficiency of equipment and at the time reduces uncertainty or breakdowns.

While workers won’t be needed to do labor-intensive tasks, their skills can still be utilized on the construction site by reallocating them to what humans do best, which is managing resources.

Robots are programmed to perform a range of repetitive and labor-intensive activities such as moving materials, tying rebar, building masonry walls or even 3D printing structures.

These robots are set to have a huge impact on the industry by reducing accidents and greatly increasing productivity. Technology can also help in reducing the amount of waste produced.

As the industry is known for the huge amount of waste it produces. Robotics can also prepare the construction site overnight so that everything is ready for workers in the morning.

This can speed up processes and also prevent delays. With robotics, jobs can be done in less time and money than they would have taken normally. Rework and costly mistakes that naturally occur due to human errors can also be avoided.

Benefits of robotics in the construction sector

There’s no need to say that robots in construction can take the industry to great extent. Here are some of the benefits:

Reduce mistake

Probably the most important advantage of robotics in construction as it can reduce mistakes drastically. Robots provide a high degree of accuracy, thus reducing human errors. Fewer mistakes result in fewer delays and do not impact the budget.

Reduce cost of construction

The minimization of delay and fast completion of projects as well as reduction of waste can limit expenses thus increasing profits.

Enhanced workers safety

The most important responsibility of project managers is to provide a safe environment and also make sure workers don’t get injured. Since heavy manual labor are performed by robots this can increase the safety of workers 

Deliver better quality

The biggest benefit of using robotics is probably the precision at which it performs tasks.

Stay in schedule

Automation allows construction managers to meet deadlines since projects are running more smoothly as well as the workplace is more efficient and there are fewer errors.

Solve skill shortage problem

Robotics has proven to be very effective in other industries to tackle the problem of labor shortage and at the same time improve productivity and quality.

Construction is a labor-intensive sector and using robotic cans helps solve the problem of labor shortage as well as increase productivity.

Examples of autonomous robots in construction sector

Concrete molding

Odico Formwork Robotics who have developed a robot that uses “hot wire cutting” to develop complex double-curved concrete molds. Traditionally this time-consuming and costly process was used sparingly in construction.

Now, robots can be programmed to create intricate formwork molds with a higher degree of accuracy than a human worker and in a fraction of the time.


SAM 100 developed by Construction Robotics claims to be the world’s first commercially available robot for onsite masonry machines.

There’s also Hadrian X developed by Fast Brick Robotics that can 3D print and lay bricks of a conventional masonry home in just two days. Hadrian X is equipped with an articulated arm that can lay up to 1000 bricks per hour. 

fbr bricklaying robot hadrian x
Images courtesy of FBR

Autonomous earthmover

Technology like Topcon Machine Control combines GPS with construction equipment to partially automate tasks like earthworks.

With the machine using GPS and highly accurate digital plans, it can carry out excavation or grading in a faster, safer and more efficient way. Works can even be adjusted through real-time updates.

Autonomous rovers

Robots are also taking the form of autonomous rovers equipped with high-definition cameras and sensors that allow them to navigate their way around sites.

Able to identify and avoid obstacles, robots such as “EffiBOT” developed by French robotics firm Effidence. The rover can follow workers, carrying tools and materials. 

Even more advanced is this rover by Doxel that uses high-definition cameras and LIDAR (Light Imaging, Detection and Ranging) sensors to carry out building site inspections, comparing progress with design models.

doxel autonomous construction rover
Images courtesy of DOXEL

Autonomous construction vehicles

Safeai is a start-up for a pilot project which fits equipment like dump trucks, bulldozers and loaders with Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, making the vehicle completely autonomous. Meaning the vehicle is now running around without any operator in the cab and getting the job.

Drywall finishing

Canvas is a company that has created an autonomous machine for finishing drywall. Finishing drywall is one of the most labor-intensive tasks where the tools haven’t changed significantly for 75 years.

canvas drywall finishing machine
Images courtesy of Canvas

The machine works alongside the crew helping them expedite the process. The worker just has to guide the system and tell it what to do and where to do it. The machine can apply materials faster with a lot of precision.

Autonomous escavator

Built Robotics is a start-up that uses software and hardware to automate equipment. Imagine you want to dig a trench from point A to point B, all that needs to be done is to input the information and press go and the excavator starts to do the work automatically.

built robotics autonomous excavator
Images courtesy of Built Robotics

Future of robotics in construction sector

While it is only just the beginning to see what robotics can do for construction. There are already more advanced robots in development that could one day replace humans in certain areas and job roles altogether.

Whilst this might sound daunting, the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence is likely to lead to the creation of new job roles and opportunities that haven’t been imagined yet.

Overhead, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or “drones” are now taking to the skies above sites. Dramatically reducing the time taken to complete surveys and enabling better-informed site or building inspections.

Augmented reality is also entering the field to allow a more precise approach and improve security. Bouygues Construction is currently running pilot projects to implement the use of visual and tactile reality simulators to better study and break down each work task. 

Boston Dynamics Spot robot-dog which is equipped with a 360-degree camera makes it possible to photograph all the details of a construction site. Which can simplify the work of the teams, improve safety and allow better control of deadlines and costs.

A great opportunity for the use of robots in the project site of the future is artificial intelligence. Combined with computer vision and other sensing technologies to monitor the movement of materials and workers in the workplace, it can make a difference.

Software can report if a job is late or if something has been put in the wrong place. Machine learning will be crucial.

The future could well see these life-like machines taking over some of the most straightforward and labor elements on-site. Not replacing job roles but filling gaps where labor cannot be found and helping to make a radical step-change in productivity.

However, the use of robots in construction remains a field of innovation still under development and represents less than 1% of work carried out today. The only ​​greatest progress by far relates more to the improvement of working conditions and safety.

However, in a world that is placing more demands on construction than ever before and with rapid change which depends on creating enough homes, infrastructure and limiting the environmental impact of development. Automation in the sector is somehow key for the future.